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Kenversations™
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by Ken Pellman (archives)
April 25, 2003
Ken discusses the role of a Disneyland Resort President.

Preface: In this edition of my column, I refer to “Disneyland?, as that was how Disney marketed Disneyland Park before lawyers figured it would be easier to legally protect the name if it was used to describe something, hence Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort, Disneyland cast members (not Disneyland’s cast members).

Kenversations™ - The Happiest Job on Earth

The Innocent Audience
I remember a more innocent time.

It was a time when the critters were closer to the folks, and the folks were closer to the critters, and you might even say things were-

Sorry. I veered off course there for a moment. As I was saying, I remember a more innocent time, both for me personally, for Disney as a whole, and yes, for the world at large.

While Disney is still magical for me, it was different when I was a child. Disney was special, and so was Disneyland, the physical manifestation of Disney, where I could interact with those characters I’d see on my television, in my books, on my bedsheets, and in the movies. Disneyland was a truly magical place. It was the best thing this side of Heaven. Nothing in the world was better than Disneyland, which had always existed as far as I was concerned, and always would exist as a place unlike any other, a self-contained wonderland where you temporarily left the world as we know it.

An impending trip to the original Magic Kingdom would prompt excitement to well up inside me to the point where I had trouble falling asleep, and I'd dream about the place when I did. I'd study a map of the park and list all of the things I wanted to do when I finally got there. Maybe part of it was that I was the son of two Midwesterners, living in a middle-class life in a suburb that was close enough to Disneyland to visit with a day trip, but no so close that I’d ever be near the place any other time.

It Was Different Back Then
It may be hard for people more than a few years younger than me to understand. When I was a kid, Disney wasn't ubiquitous. It was quite different than it is now. Part of what made Disney special was that life wasn’t saturated with it. You might see Disney educational films at school, see some Disney programming on TV, have some Disney records and merchandise, catch a Disney film in the theaters every now and then, and make rare trips to Disneyland (or Walt Disney World, though I didn't make it to Florida until I was 16).

But there were no Disney Stores, no Disneyland Paris (indeed, until 1982 there were a total of two Disney theme parks in the world), no serious, sizable official or unofficial collectors societies of note. Disney didn’t even own one cable channel, or any television or radio stations or networks. There was no DVD, and videotapes of films were very expensive. I didn't know what an Imagineer was. I didn't know how any of the attractions and their special effects really worked. I didn't know what any of the backstage areas looked like.

Walt Disney Productions (as it was known then), although it had some films that were critical, artistic, and/or financial failures, was synonymous with wholesome family entertainment, not pre-teen targeted cable television and radio, and was never associated with edgy fare. Church pastors were not calling for boycotts and writing books in an attempt to "expose" Disney. Disney struggled with releasing a film that was rated “PG? instead of the standard “G?.

There was no Touchstone brand, there was no Miramax/Dimension, the Hollywood brand, whether music, TV, or films, had never existed, there were no sequels to Disney’s animated feature films. There was no Downtown Disney or even Pleasure Island; there were no signs at Disneyland telling you to do the very natural thing of supervising your own children.

There was a line of people waiting to work at Disneyland, and becoming a cast member was an honor usually reserved for young, sharp, attractive, clean-cut, helpful types. What's more, they didn't wear their costumes outside of work. You didn't see costumed cast members loitering outside of Disneyland, smoking, swearing, fighting with significant others, pumping gas at the local service station, and so forth.

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